Chased by a Chicken

by Judy Kjaer


An Amazing Fact: A woman who had just returned from a trip to Mexico frantically called the Los Angeles Police Department to report that a live rattlesnake had been placed in her overnight bag. Police went rushing to the scene with sirens screaming. They slowly approached the menacing bag, which the woman had heaved out of a window onto the sidewalk. Cautiously they scattered the contents of the bag-only to trace the rattling sound to her electric toothbrush, which had accidentally turned on!

I carry with me a photograph of a log cabin in Washington state. Although we visit this mountain retreat winter and summer, we never stay long enough for it to become a common place to us.

There's a variety of wildlife on this mountain, from the faithful hummingbird sentinel at the top of a tall, leafless sapling to the elusive elk, whose hoof prints tell us they frequent the top of our mountain. Some are industrious, like the crew of five chipmunks who volunteered one morning to clean up the grass seed we had scattered next to the house. Others are indolent, like the packrat who had to be evicted for poor housekeeping. All teach us valuable lessons from our Creator's book of Nature.

Queen of Deception
One day last summer, my husband came in from a walk and told me he had been chased by a chicken. This wasn't any ordinary barnyard hen; it was a wild mountain chicken. The correct name is ruffed grouse, but they're commonly called partridge in our mountains. The male is heard seasonally in the distance, beating his wings together so as to impersonate a lawn mower starting up. But the female is the queen of deception.

Kim had encountered the Mamma Hen not far from the cabin. Fearing he was after her chicks and apparently wanting to compensate for her small size, this hen's bold, protective instincts drove her to assume a clever disguise. She fluffed and bristled up her feathers to their fullest volume and ran at Kim for all she was worth.

Before he had a chance to get a good look at his attacker, which was obscured by the tall grass, Kim's fight-or-flight mechanism kicked in and he followed his instinct to run. However, eventually he looked back and realized he was being chased by a chicken. And, of course, he came to his senses and stopped running.

I enjoyed his story. Then, a few weeks later as I went walking by myself, I heard a flutter and turned to see a huge, dark, mysterious creature hurtling itself down the hill toward me at breakneck speed. Naturally, I did what most sensible folk would do-run now and figure it out later!

I ran about 20 feet, realized it was just Mamma Hen again, and then stopped. She had already slowed her pace considerably since I was cooperating by running for my life. After all, she needn't waste time pursuing someone who no longer posed a threat to baby partridges. When I looked back and saw her, still facing me with feathers fluffed to the max, it was hilarious. I wished I'd had a video camera.

Chickens really ought to run from us. We're bigger than they are, and if we wanted to we could have them for lunch. If my husband and I had not been taken by surprise, we could have faced the chicken and she would have run from us. Next time, we console ourselves, we'll do better. We'll know she is nothing to fear.

A Master of Surprise
Being tempted by the devil is a lot like being chased by a chicken. He hides in the tall grass, fluffs himself up and charges at you, hoping you won't recognize how small he is in comparison with your Savior. He catches you off guard, when you're thinking about something else. Your first reaction is to run, but if you stood up to him in the name of Jesus Christ, he'd run from you. It reminds me of the lions in the book Pilgrim's Progress, which frightened poor Christian one night with their deafening roar because he couldn't see that they were securely chained.

God's Word tells us we can call the devil's bluff! "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). We can face the tempter in God's strength and Jesus' name, and he must go. However, like any skill, resisting the devil requires practice. We are naturally inclined to do things his way. Even after we are born from above and have new motives and purposes, we must continually choose to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh.

The crafty deceiver has been practicing his art for 6,000 years and has mastered the element of surprise. In order to help us discern the enemy's varied deceptions, God gives us opportunities every day to develop habits of resisting. It's the power of choice that needs to be trained.

Bothered by a Bear
The forest service trailheads around our home post signs showing the difference between a black bear and a brown bear. The brown bear, or grizzly, is dangerous. Black bears, on the other hand, generally have a meeker reputation. They're more scared of you than you are of them. They can't see very well, so unless you get between a mother and her cubs, they are not very aggressive. At least, that's what I've been told.

One evening, Kim and I were peacefully reading together, resting securely inside our cabin's thick log walls. I went to the kitchen for a glass of water and glanced out the window. There was a black bear at the edge of our yard where the woods start. We watched as he turned toward us, perfectly framed in the picture window like a Montana postcard.

Dave, the original owner and builder of our cabin, said a bear had visited his property about once a year when he lived there. With true mountain story-telling flair, he described the snowy night he had played tag with Blackie around the trash can, armed only with a broom.

If Blackie comes around just once a year, we figured he would probably visit while we're gone, which is most of the time. We hadn't really expected to see him ever, and after seeing him once, we knew the chances of seeing him again that year were very slim.

I had two deeply held theories about the bear. One was that if I ever met up with him away from the house, he would turn and run-or at least lumber-in the opposite direction. The other theory was that he lived on the other side of the mountain and rarely visited the side where people live.

One Monday before breakfast I took my usual half-mile walk down the mountain to our nearest neighbor's driveway. I started running, but halfway down I slowed to a walk, talking with God and feeling free. As I rounded the switchback, I saw Blackie. He was about the same distance from me as he had been the first time. However, now there was no protection of log walls separating us. He and I were on the same road, and then he turned and faced me.

At that moment, my number one theory about bears evaporated. Blackie did not run, lumber, or even amble away from me. In fact, he began to move toward me! I quickly decided to turn around and started running home. The major problem with this decision was that my run uphill is more like a slow walk-not exactly spinning my wheels, but close to it. Where was all that adrenaline you're supposed to be able to count on in an emergency?

I eventually rounded the bend and headed home, praying. Twice I looked back. Blackie had not yet made the curve. I figured that if I saw him behind me, I could start planning my funeral. Then I heard a commotion in the woods to my left, which meant the bear was no longer on the road. He had headed up the mountain a different way, for which I was most grateful.

I stopped, and the noise stopped too. What to do? I calculated that if Blackie was headed uphill by the direct route, he'd hit the road just about where it curves again in front of our house. I might meet him there. I waited a minute or so and didn't hear anything, so I started walking toward home. I was out of breath when I got there, but I was safe. Problem solved.

Facing Our Fears
Now that my top two theories about bears were utterly demolished, how could I ever again walk the mountain unafraid?

Years ago, I read that when Ernest Hemingway met a bear in the woods, he talked to it. That didn't seem a useful option for me, so I decided to consult the experts and consider my alternatives.

Here are the options I came up with:

  1. Play dead.
  2. Jump up and down, making as much noise as possible. (I don't know how I would combine these first two.)
  3. Sing while walking.
  4. Run downhill, because bears aren't good at that. (Their front legs are shorter than their back ones.)

That last one held promise, but what if the bear just tumbled down the hill and steamrolled me? I also thought of getting a dog, then a gun (to fire into the air, not to shoot the bear). But what goes up must come down.

What Would Jesus Do? "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God" (Psalm 20:7). I choose to trust in God, since "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7). Had I not been already delivered from the bear in answer to my prayer? Why walk in fear, when "God hath not given us the spirit of fear" (2 Timothy 1:7)? I concluded that the same God who delivered Daniel from the lions and David from the bear could still protect me.

b>Not Playing by the Rules
Both the chicken chase and the bear scare were true-to-life object lessons. The bear didn't obey the rules of nature, which said he should run away. He scared me; but unlike the chicken, he really was bigger than me. It looked as if he were coming after me, but it was all a bluff. It worked; I ran.

In a similar way, when I come face-to-face with the devil, he doesn't seem to know that the rules say he should run away. He scares me, and he's bigger than I am. It looks as if he's coming after me, so I run, which is just what he wants me to do.

But wait. The promise that the devil will flee is dependent on me doing something first. James lists three events in order (James 4:7):

 

  1. Submit yourself to God.
  2. Resist the devil.
  3. He will flee from you.
    The devil doesn't flee till I do two things: submit and resist. Submitting and resisting are opposites. As I submit to one, I resist the other. Submit to God, resist the devil. Submit to the devil, resist God.
    Only after we submit to God do we have the faith and power to resist the devil.
    The next verse adds two additional events:
  4. Draw nigh [near] to God.
  5. He will draw nigh to you.

Once again, it is my turn first. I choose my master. God has already made the promise, and He will not force Himself on me.

Doing My Part
To sum it up, I have three things to do. Submit, resist, and draw near. Submitting and drawing near to God are habits the Christian should cultivate every waking moment. They are also called surrender and communion. If I really trust God, I will surrender everything I have and am to Him. Of course, the main thing He wants me to surrender is my will.

Submit means "yield." Surrender means "give up." In practical terms, it means I pray and give myself- my life, my will, my allegiance, my thoughts, my plans, my time, my talents, my money, my stuff, my everything-to God every day. It's all His now, and He's in control. At the point of temptation, I repeat the surrender, giving my will to God in that very thing I'm tempted on and giving up all my rights and preferences regarding it.

If I'm tempted to covet my neighbor's house, I need to yield my will to God, following the example of Jesus in the garden when He said, "Thy will be done" (Matthew 26:42). This surrender must include the particular area of my life where there's a temptation: houses. Knowing that Jesus had no place to lay His head, I choose by His grace to be willing to follow Him.

Sometimes I may not really be willing, so I must surrender my unwillingness too, saying, "Lord, I'm willing to be made willing to live as You lived on this earth. Please make me willing." And He will because I've submitted myself to God.

The second thing I must do is to resist the devil. It's not enough just to submit. Submission must be followed by action. Too often we concede the battle by saying, "I don't have the strength to resist. That's my whole problem."

Not true. If we believe God's Word, that's not the problem at all. Having strength is not our part. It is God's part. He has promised a way to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). He is a present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). He is able to keep you from falling (Jude 24). Only when we are without Christ are we powerless.

No, strength is not even an issue. The promise is: Resist, and the devil will flee (James 4:7). You haven't been asked to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the devil. The battle with the devil is not yours, but God's (2 Chronicles 20:15).

But isn't there a struggle? Yes, we have all experienced it. However, the struggle is not with the devil. The struggle is with self. The struggle comes before we surrender. Once the full surrender is made, self is dead and struggles no more.

The third thing we do is draw close to God. Some of the sweetest communion we can enjoy with God is when we immediately pour out our thanks to Him for victory over temptation. God is very real to us then.

It's simple. Submit to God. Resist the devil, then the devil flees. Draw near to God, then God draws near to you. Do you remember the parable of the prodigal son? As soon as the father saw his son coming home, he ran to meet him (Luke 15:20).

Staying in Focus
What if I mess up? What if somehow I don't do my part and fall under temptation. The answer is simple. Get up (Micah 7:8). If you take your eyes off Jesus and start to sink, then look back to Him, and like Peter say, "Lord, save me!" John wrote his second epistle so we wouldn't sin, but he added that if we do sin, Jesus is our advocate (1 John 2:1). If we confess our sin, He forgives and cleanses us (1 John 1:9).

Peter said that we escape corruption by claiming God's promises (2 Peter 1:4). Yet he recognized that often we are deceived by the devil into forgetting we've been cleansed, or purged, from our old sins (2 Peter 1:9). We act as if we were still in bondage to our old habits, when in fact we have been set free. We let the bear bully us.

Doesn't faith play some part in this? Yes, the Bible says our faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). A favorite trick of the devil is to convince us that we don't have enough faith. However, Jesus said that if we had faith as a grain of mustard seed (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6), we could accomplish amazing things.

We don't need a lot of faith; we just need to exercise the faith we have, and it will grow. Faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). The Bible says that every one of us has a measure of it (Romans 12:3), so a lack of faith is not the problem. God merely asks us to exercise the faith He has given us.

What is the problem, then? Sometimes it's not spending enough time at the cross. Without a vivid sense of God's love for us, we lack motivation to submit to God, resist the devil, and draw near to God. If we daily take time to prayerfully consider Jesus' sacrifice, God's love will be increasingly real to us, and "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). In other words, when we know we are walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, we will not panic every time we are chased by a chicken or bluffed by a bear.

Next time you're under attack, stand your ground in the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), and let the devil do the running.

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